Investigation launched into Nusrat Ghani's claim she was sacked over Muslim faith

ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan on the latest developments in Nusrat Ghani's Islamophobia claims, as the PM continues to be surrounded by controversy

Boris Johnson has asked the Cabinet Office to launch an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia raised by a former transport minister who alleged she was sacked because of her Muslim faith.Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani claimed she was informed by a government whip that she lost her job as transport minister in a mini-reshuffle in February 2020 because her faith was "making colleagues uncomfortable".

The MP for Wealden met with the prime minister in July 2020 to discuss her allegations, but said that Mr Johnson told her he "could not get involved" over the claims.

MPs are not sure how Boris Johnson will survive his 'day from hell', Political Editor Robert Peston, who has been speaking to Tory MPs, says

No 10 said the PM had "serious concern" about her allegations and he invited her to begin a formal complaints process, though the Tory MP did not choose this route.

On Monday, following a rallying of support around Ms Ghani after the claims emerged over the weekend, Downing Street confirmed that the PM has asked the Cabinet Office to carry out an inquiry into the allegations.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The prime minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP. “At the time these allegations were first made, the Prime Minister recommended to her that she make a formal complain to CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters). “She did not take up this offer. The prime minister has now asked officials to establish the facts about what happened."

Ms Ghani welcomed the statement in a tweet on Monday morning, saying that all she wants is for the claims to be taken seriously and properly investigated.

Mr Johnson said he took the claims "extremely seriously", but refused to be drawn on specifics as he said the investigation needs to reach its conclusion before any further comments were made. 

"We take these allegations extremely seriously," Mr Johnson said during a visit to Milton Keynes University hospital in Buckinghamshire on Monday. 

"I took them very seriously when they were raised with me 18 months ago... very glad there is an investigation taking place now."

Mr Johnson said he takes Ms Ghani's allegations relating to Islamophobia 'extremely seriously'

Education Secrertary Nadhim Zahawi, meanwhile, said he hoped the Cabinet Office investigation into Ms Ghani’s claims could be completed “swiftly”.

He told ITV News that it is important there is a "thorough" probe into the "very serious" allegations, which he acknowledges are "painful" for his colleague.

Conservative peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who has previously claimed the Tory party is “institutionally racist”, said she is not surprised by the allegations.

"Nothing shocks me on the issue of Islamophobia and unfortunately some of my colleagues anymore," she told ITV's Good Morning Britain.

"It actually follows a pattern that I’ve seen for the hundreds of cases that I’ve submitted to the party over the years."

Ms Warsi, the first Muslim woman to attend cabinet, went on to suggest that Islamophobia is often not treated as seriously as other forms of discrimination.

In a statement released on Sunday, Ms Ghani explained why she did not launch formal proceedings through the Tory party and said she only wanted the government “to take this seriously, investigate properly and ensure no other colleague has to endure this”. She continued: “When I told the prime minister in June 2020 what had been said to me in the Government Whips’ Office I urged him to take it seriously as a government matter and instigate an inquiry. “He wrote to me that he could not get involved and suggested I use the internal Conservative Party complaint process."

In a sign of the tensions with the party, the Chief Whip Mark Spencer – who admitted speaking to her – angrily denied her claims saying they were “completely false” and “defamatory”.

However it is Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street lockdown parties – expected later this week – which poses the gravest and most immediate threat to Mr Johnson’s survival in No 10.

With widespread public anger and collapsing opinion poll ratings for the Conservatives – and for Mr Johnson in particular – many Tory MPs are in a mutinous mood, with some 10 already publicly calling for the PM to go.